Finding a Date...

Before I could start any research into into the costume, I needed to pin point a date that the portrait was painted. I had been told the painting was early 17th century, however fashion changed fast and dramatically during this time so it was important to acquire a much more specific date to make sure I was on the right track.
My first point of call was to look at a portrait of Margaret Layton which I was told had a very similar costume to the Dunham portrait.

There are definite similarities between the costumes;
  • Similar jacket, embroidery, colour.
  • Similar skirt, where it sits on the waist.
  • Similar shaped ruff (pointing down) & cuffs.  
This portrait was painted in 1620, giving me my first clue to when my portrait was painted. Next I looked into ruff fashions to see if I could acquire any more accuracy from that. The fashion for ruffs died out 1625 which told me the portrait could be no older than that. However after reading over the information obtained it was apparent that, Robert Peake, died in 1619, so obviously the portrait could be no older than that!
I then looked into embroidery fashions and found an interesting piece on Jacobean embroidery on

The Jacobean Period refers to the reign of King James I (of England)/VI (of Scotland). James became king of Scotland in 1567 after the execution of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots. He became king of England in 1603, after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. This was a transitional period, where the late Elizabethan styles were still mostly in play. One of the defining features of the period is extensive use of heavy embroidery picturing natural motifs, with colorful flowers and animals swirling around on the fabric.
This description of Jacobean embroidery is exactly what the embroidery of the jacket in the portrait depicts, telling me that the portrait would have been painted during the reign of King James I, narrowing down my search for a date to some time between 1603-1619.

The final clue was that it is believed the portrait was painted as Vere Egerton's engagement portrait, before she married into the Booth family of Dunham in 1619. So my final guess would be that the portrait was painted between 1615 & 1618.


  1. Interesting to read your analysis. Another interesting fact about the fashion aspect of the portrait is that Tina Sitwell, our paintings conservation adviser, told me that there were indications that Vere's jacket may have been shortened some time after the picture was originally painted - which might indicate a response to a change in fashion. It might be worth checking that with Tina and with the conservator, Melanie Caldwell. Wouldn't it be great if we could document the changing hemlines of the 1620s :)

  2. That's really interesting as I have been curious about the length of the jacket for quite a while! I'm going to see the painting on Tuesday for the first time since it has come back to Dunham and have already been told it looks a lot better since its conservation.